DRED Educating Boaters on Rules for Natural Area

Ossipee — May 31, 2007 — State officials kicked off a new effort to educate the public about what uses are allowed at Long Sands this weekend.Though no decisions have been made regarding changes to the management of Ossipee Lake Natural Area, representatives from the state Department of Resources and Economic Development Division of Forests and Lands were at the Pine River Boat Launch over the weekend to talk to boaters about regulations already in place to protect the land.

Those regulations include protection of plants and natural features, closing of the beach at night, restrictions prohibiting camping, erecting any structure, building fires, using grills, fireworks, or metal detectors, disposing of any kind of waste, digging holes (other than small holes in the sandy beach), conducting commercial activity, or holding any special events “beyond routine recreational activities.” Anyone violating of these rules can be found guilty of a misdemeanor.

Phil Bryce, director of the Division of Forests and Lands, said the rules being posted are general rules for all lands managed by DRED. “They are not specific to the natural area,” he said, adding that specific regulations would be developed as part of the overall management plan for the area, on which the division is working.

“We do not want to start making up specific rules for Ossipee at this point,” he said. The division wants to have a management plan in place, and then look at “What are the rules appropriate to that management direction.”

Blair Folts, executive director of Green Mountain Conservation Group, said she was pleased to hear of a state presence educating boaters about the land, and believes that most people will voluntarily comply with the rules.

“I do think people want to do the right thing. They just don’t understand the fragility of the area. I think that if they do understand the fragile nature of the Ossipee Lake Natural Area, they will want to recreate with care,” she said.

Ossipee Lake Alliance executive director David Smith was also pleased to hear of more state involvement, but said more needs to be done. He wanted to know, for instance, “Is stuff not on the signs now legal? My understanding is alcohol is not permitted [on state park lands]. There is nothing about boats being pulled up on the shore, or chairs or tents or waterslides on the beach. None of this is listed as prohibited, so is it permissible?”

Smith also said Bryce had recommended, and DRED Commissioner George Bald had said he would go ahead with, closing the shoreline to public access while a new policy on public access was being written. He said he has written to Bryce with his concerns.

Bryce said Tuesday he had received Smith’s letter, said the state is working on the management plan.

The beach known as Long Sands is part of Ossipee Lake Natural Area, a 400-acre parcel sold to the state for educational and recreation purposes in 1969 by White and Sawyer. With warm shallow waters and a long expanse of beach it is a popular spot for boaters on Ossipee Lake to visit.

There is no easy access to the beach by land, though the town of Ossipee, in an effort led by N.H. State Representative Harry Merrow, has in recent years tried to open a land-access to the beach. The area has also attracted the attention of conservationists, who want to make sure that rare plant species and ecological communities there are protected.

Earlier this month the Department of Resources and Economic Development held a public forum on use of the land (information on the presentation can be found at www.nhdfl.org). The public comment period is open until June 4. Comments may be sent to Phil Bryce at pbryce@dred.state.nh.us or by mail at N.H. Division of Forest and Lands, at PO Box 1856, Concord, NH 03301.

“One of the things that came out of that meeting was letting people know what the rules are,” Bryce said, because there was a sense that people were not aware of breaking any rules and would comply if they knew.

No date has been set for completion of the management plan. “We are working on Ossipee [the Natural Area] on almost a daily basis,” Bryce said. “The major message from the commissioner to us is we need to do something out there to ensure compliance and ensure protection. This is one of the most challenging pieces of DRED property under our jurisdiction.”

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